Raider Nation came out in full force on Sunday in anticipation of what they hoped would be a fourth straight win for the Raiders. It’s a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since their 2016 playoff season. The buzz around the team prior to the trip east hinted at playoff hopes. The postseason was looking more and more likely as the weeks progressed. Then the Raiders hit what many people refer to as a “trap game”.
Make no mistake, there’s no such thing as a trap game. There are reasons a top team might lose to a bottom dweller such as injuries, sitting starters, weather conditions, or just plain laying an egg, but this is a sport that sees underdogs win any given Sunday. Putting the Jets in the rearview mirror before Sunday was the trap.
When New York lost signal-caller Sam Darnold in week 2 to mononucleosis, of all things, the season seemed lost, and rightfully so. The second-year player was looking good toward the end of 2018 and he was expected to keep that rolling into 2019. After going 0-3, the Jets were excited to have their quarterback back under center, and they won his first game back. All four of their wins, in fact, came after Darnold’s return.
Fast forward to Jets week in the Raiders locker room. Coach Jon Gruden stated the week before that the team was not taking the 0-9 Cincinnatti Bengals for granted, so everyone, Chucky included, seemed stunned that Oakland came out and took a nosedive right onto the field, but let’s not be so quick to judge.
New York came into this game with the best run defense in the league, the one that held Dallas top-tier rushing attack to only 129 yards on their way to a 24-22 victory at home over the Boys. The Raiders have largely relied on the run since drafting rookie phenom Josh Jacobs to fill their workhorse running back position. Rushing favored the Jets and they took every inch of that advantage, holding Jacobs to a measly 34 yards on 10 attempts.
New York also relies on the run game a lot, but the big difference is Le’Veon Bell. Even after his departure from the Steelers, the running back remains one of the most dynamic and elusive players in the league. Bell ran for only 49 yards, but his skill to catch out of the backfield makes him a double threat and received for 59 yards as well. While Oakland’s run defense seems to function better than the pass defense by miles, the Jets have some talent in their secondary. They held the Raiders signal-callers to just 147 total yards passing. Defense overall heavily leaned towards New York with some seasoned vets and structured gameplans, as opposed to the Raiders bunch of rookies and a couple of almost has-beens.
Jon Gruden runs what most refer to as a West Coast Offense, which is reliant upon short passes and a strong rushing attack, topped off by strategic long-bomb air raids. The Jets rely on their stable of weapons around Sam Darnold, many of whom are finally getting their feet under them. Top receiver Robby Anderson was one of nine players targeted by Darnold, catching four passes for 86 yards and a touchdown. Oakland’s side of the ball was a different story this week. While Carr and later Mike Glennon targeted 11 different receivers, only four of them reached double-digit yardage, the highest being running back Jalen Richard with 47. Receivers were working for New York, something the Raiders did not benefit from. Playcalling was poor from Gruden that day, as he openly admitted, and the whole offensive effort was lackluster at best.
Derek Carr has several critics, as does Sam Darnold. Oakland’s signal-caller has been attacked for not taking chances, not throwing the ball on time, not running in the open field. Not all this is completely unfair, as they’ve all been issues for Carr as recently as last year. However, he didn’t show those deficiencies this past week. Watching the game back, it’s clear that he wasn’t perfect, but having his receivers catch only 19 of 33 passes for 47 total yards is not an indictment on Carr, as his passes were by and large perfectly placed. The weather was a receivers worst enemy, and those receivers from California coming to the east coast weren’t ready for it. Nevermind that Carr has a poor record in the cold, now his receivers do too. Whichever side of the Carr debate you land on, his play was decent versus New York. He even ran for a first down and was the third leading rusher on the team, which isn’t saying much.
Sam Darnold is a quarterback in a tight end’s body. His 6-foot-3 225-pound frame does little to define his ability to run like a fullback. He’s not yet afraid to make decisions that put his body at risk. He hasn’t weathered the injuries that he will undoubtedly have suffered in another 3 or 4 years, so his on-field decisions are not business decisions, they’re in furtherance of the ultimate goal: Win. This gives a slight advantage to Darnold as one other major factor came into play. Derek Carr sucks at play action. The Raiders haven’t been known for being a play-action heavy offense, but there was some of it against the Jets, none of which worked well. Darnold will run a play and if he doesn’t see a target, he will run for it. Carr is still getting over that fear of a broken bone, something he’s suffered more of than your average quarterback. The youngster gave a performance like he has been much of the year. It may not be evident this week after this particular loss, but the kid is good. Give him some credit. It’s hard to give an advantage here but Darnold played with more fervor and deserves that respect.
Easy. One team is used to kicking in the weather, the other isn’t.
Looking through a lens of objectivity, this game was not a given for the Raiders. Call it a trap game, or call it unpreparedness, either way, they didn’t match up to their opponents. The Raiders were hoping to extend their win streak, but they weren’t the only ones. The Jets had won 2 in a row and wanted desperately to make it 3. They had something to strive for as well and they fought harder to get it.
Congratulations, New York, you earned this win.
Raider Nation, it’s back to Cali. Time to prep for the big boys on the block. If getting your dicks knocked in the dirt didn’t wake you up enough to want to punch the Chiefs in the mouth in their own house, there probably isn’t much that will.